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We Spoke to the Architects Behind the World’s First Beyoncé-Inspired Tower

Melbourne: a world where Beyoncé rules the skyline.

This article originally appeared on Noisey Australia.

Melbourne in 2015 is a strange place. It’s a world where magazines launch restaurants, foreign investors create cursed gargantuan observational wheels, and we build towers based on Beyoncé.

The ‘Premier Tower’ seems to be caught somewhere between a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare. Built by Melbourne firm Elenberg Fraser, they’re responsible for giving our CBD a few multi-residential towers designed for a number of high-rolling residents and clients. This one will house a 160-room hotel, plus 660 boutique apartments within 68 stories on the site of the Savoy Hotel—once described as one of our “scabs of the city.”

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Check out The Creator's Project story on the Bey tower.

But while it’s easy to bemoan another project that isn’t responding to our well-documented housing affordability crisis, this project has certainly captivated people the world over. A slew of publications have written about this building, and even broadcasters like NPR have told their audiences of Melbourne’s little ripple in Bey’s big world.

To find out why everyone’s caught in a Beyoncé-inspired tizz, we got Elenberg Fraser’s design architect Jansen Aui, and interior designer Emma Phythian to tell us how Bey came to be the genesis of a skyscraper.

Noisey: Hey guys, so how did you draw from Beyoncé to create the building?
Jansen Aui: In trying to find the best structural, heritage, and environmental outcomes for this tower, we wound up with this curvy building. When we saw it, the instant reference for this was Beyoncé’s "Ghost" video. When we went back to the video, unpacked it, and really got interested in it, it became the narrative for our design.

The "Ghost" video features dancers in stockings, which you cite as inspiration. How do they relate to the tower?
Emma Frazer: The interior is like the video in the sense that it reflects different sides of Beyoncé. The interiors feed off those personas, and they’re telling the physical story behind each one. The building’s color palettes and geometry represent how she looks aesthetically.

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So what Beyoncé personas are represented here?
Frazer: We came up with four characters: The muse, the fighter, the performer, and the seductress. Beyoncé's an inspiration for fashion and textiles, so we’ve reflected this with certain elements of pleating and folding in very elegant spaces. But she’s also this super fit, strong woman, almost akin to a warrior, which has been reflected in our fitness areas. In our communal level, she’s there as the performer, where there’s going to be dramatic lighting, karaoke rooms and games rooms. So her personas inform the uses of our spaces as well as our design elements—like how our penthouse will be representing her as the seductress.

One reason the building has been likened to the Beyoncé video is because of its similar curves. You say this results in "structural efficiency." What does that actually mean?
Aui: When you build a high-rise, it’s like trying to make a ruler stand up on its thin edge. So these buildings are constantly moving, and so they’re inherently unstable—basically vertical cantilevers off the ground. To resist it swaying too much, we need to place the most of the concrete’s mass at about two-thirds of the height of the building. So these bulges and curves speak to where we’ve placed the building’s mass.

It also ties in with the idea that any tower with a dynamic surface helps mitigate wind speeds, so that pedestrians on the ground are more comfortable as a result.

Out of all the people who you could have picked to mark one of Melbourne’s newest frontiers, why Beyoncé?
Frazer: It started off with seeing the similarities with the video and what came out of the design process, but it’s also just about celebrating someone that everybody loves. We all think she’s rad, and it’s about celebrating a strong amazing woman really. It’s not about her bottom, but more about—

Aui: —the force of her personality. A lot of people are interested in this building’s relationship to pop culture, but we’ve also had very serious architects tell us that we’ve completely sold out the idea of architecture. This tower is a strong statement for our practice— the fact that ideas come from anywhere, and if it’s strong, and it’s something we believe in, they can sort of manifest themselves in our projects in a powerful way that connects with people.

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